Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Issue 7 - Evidence
OTTAWA, Wednesday, December 4, 2002
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, to which was referred Bill C-8, to
protect human health and safety and the environment by regulating products used for the control of pests, met this day
at 4:15 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.
Senator Marjory LeBreton (Deputy Chairman) in the Chair.
The Deputy Chairman: Honourable senators, I call the meeting to order. Our witnesses are Shauneen Mackay from
New Tecumseth Environmental Watch, Michel Gaudet from The Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides Quebec, and
Dr. Meg Sears, from Health Dangers of the Urban Use of Pesticides.
Before starting the meeting, I wish to move, with your concurrence, to leave the chair and ask Senator Morin to take
the chair. I am preparing to go to an event on behalf of the committee for Dr. Keon tonight, and as usual, I waited
until the last minute to prepare myself.
Is it agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Yves Morin (Acting Chairman) in the Chair.
The Acting Chairman: I thank the witnesses for coming today.
Mr. Gaudet, I understand you are ready to present your brief. Feel free to use the language of your choice.
Mr. Michel Gaudet, The Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides Quebec: The Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides
was founded in December 1999 by a group of people affected by pesticides. On behalf of our 25,000 members I wish to
bring forward our concerns and suggestions regarding Bill C-8.
We acknowledge that Bill C-8 is an improvement in comparison with the existing law. However, we would like to
bring the following to your attention.
Health Canada says that pregnant women should avoid contact with pesticides. The federal pesticide codes of
Environment Canada says that if the wind does not exceed 10 kilometres per hour and if the temperature of the day
does not exceed 25 degrees Celsius, the drift from pesticides such as Killex is 100 metres, thereby affecting an average of
between 25 and 30 homes. We believe that we have the right not to be exposed to the unwanted chemicals. These are
some of the reasons to prohibit the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes. This would ensure equal protection for all
We have taken note that the precautionary principle will be implemented when a product is re-evaluated. However,
we feel that this principle should also be present when a new product is being registered. In addition, the principle
should be applied to replace the most toxic products with non-chemical alternatives and biopesticides. Also, a
provision for risk reduction should be incorporated in Bill C-8.
Bill C-8 must stipulate timelines and completion deadlines on re-evaluations that are being done on and will be done
Bill C-8 proposes that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, PMRA, would not register a product for use in
Canada unless the PMRA has determined that the health and environmental risk and the value of the pesticides are
``acceptable.'' This would mean that there would be a ``reasonable certainty'' that no harm to human health, future
generations or the environment would result from the registration of a product. We applaud this, and stress that in
order to have this level of protection, it is imperative to state clearly the definition of ``reasonable certainty'' in Bill C-8.
It is also necessary to have independent studies conducted on pesticide active and inert ingredients to be registered,
and on mixed products or formulations. These studies should include, but not be limited to, the synergistic effect of
mixed products. They also should include other testing such as endocrine destruction, immune dysfunction,
neurotoxicity, carcinogenicity, et cetera to ascertain if the pesticide, mixed products or formulation will add to the toxic
burden of our environment — our water, air and the earth.
A 10-fold safety factor that is not discretionary must be imposed to protect all our children and the unborn.
The adverse effects of a pesticide should be reported not only by the pesticide companies, but also by doctors, public
health authorities and the public. This information should be entered in a national data collection bank and made
available to the public.
Pesticides that exhibit adverse effects or those banned in other OECD countries should be placed on an immediate
moratorium until independent evaluation. Those found to be harmful to human health or the environment should be
promptly removed from the market and not phased out, as is the current practice.
We agree that information on sales of pesticide products should be reported to the minister. We would like that this
information be provided per province and be made available to the public, as is currently done in the Province of
Quebec. Included in this information must be a breakdown of where the pesticide is used and for what purposes.
There should be a clear warning on the packaging of pesticides products — as there is for cigarettes — and an
awareness campaign on the dangers of pesticides while promoting the alternative to pesticides.
With a view toward having more transparency, Bill C-8 should make it compulsory to declare the active and inert
ingredients of any products. This information should be on the packaging. The PMRA is carrying out the work on our
behalf so all the data, including the test data, should be available to the public. In that way, equal opportunity to access
the information is provided to all Canadians.
As little is known about the effects of mixing products, the mixing of pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides and
insecticides should be prohibited. We recommend that the prime concern and the sole purpose of Health Canada
should be to place human health above all else.
Health Canada does allow toxic products among our communities and so we know that a percentage of the
population will become ill from exposure. Does the Government of Canada plan for testing and treatment centres for
We recommend that research be required on the synergistic effects of pesticides; that there be a process for the
research and funding of low-impact, non-toxic, biological pesticides; and that a mechanism be set up for submission of
independent scientific findings.
Dr. Meg Sears, Health Dangers of the Urban Use of Pesticides: Honourable senators, thank you for inviting me here
In Ottawa, we have been through, and are continuing to go through, a process in which we are looking at a bylaw
that would ban the cosmetic uses of pesticides. I spoke to the House committee in the spring and, since then, we have
been through an enormous process and have learned a great deal. In the meantime, there have been substantial
improvements to Bill C-53, which is now Bill C-8. We commend the government for that. However, there are
improvements yet to be made. Some of our suggestions have been made before but most of them are new and arise
from our experiences over the last months.
The first and most important key recommendation would be to change the definition of ``pest.'' In the bill, it is
defined as ``organisms that are injurious, noxious or troublesome.'' We think Canadians have more spine than that. I
do not think we need to have toxic chemicals to treat something that is simply ``troublesome.'' We would like to see the
word ``troublesome'' deleted from that definition. If we no longer use toxic chemicals to treat something that was
merely troublesome, then we would not have to use chemicals for cosmetic purposes.
Over the last few months, we have found that there is a big difference between the perception of the information that
is coming from the PMRA, and the perception of Ottawa doctors about what is happening in their patient population.
Appended to our brief, are submissions from four of the top doctors in our community. The first one is from Dr. Alex
MacKenzie, Director of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. In it, he talks about the
assessment of pesticide harm. Dr. MacKenzie is obviously involved in medical research. He concludes that it is a
political decision as to the level of benefit that merits risk, but that it is impossible for medical research and our
scientific tools to accurately assess risk and that we must increase the level of benefit that we expect before we will
accept an inevitable risk.
I have also attached letters from Dr. Paul Claman, an expert in infertility and reproductive endocrinology; Dr.
Richard van der Jagt, Chair of the Canadian Leukemia Studies Group; and from Dr. Jennifer Armstrong, who is an
environmental medicine specialist.
Even if we do not have a pesticide bylaw in Ottawa, we certainly have raised the level of awareness among the
medical community. The medical community is speaking out unanimously that pesticides are causing harm among
Canadians because of the way things are going right now. This is an expensive misery for Canadians. It is of national
significance because health and cognitive effects of pesticides are compromising our future because we are insidiously
harming our young.
We are also speaking to the urgency of this matter because children are being born every day to mothers who have
pesticides in their breast milk and we are seeing increasing illnesses among our children.
We would recommend that Canada seek the highest common denominator amongst the OECD countries. If a
pesticide were either withdrawn or had its registration repealed in any OECD country for any reason, then it should be
withdrawn until it is further evaluated.
I have some specific recommendations regarding the incorporation of the precautionary principle in the preamble of
the bill. We believe that the level of risk must be assessed realistically so that there is a higher burden of proof for the
registration of a pesticide than there is for the deregistration of a pesticide.
We recommend that toxicity testing include all ingredients. We would recommend that combinations of pesticides
be tested when there is the potential for simultaneous exposure to more than one chemical. For example, a lawn care
operator could be exposed to herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Therefore, toxicity testing should be realistic in
terms of combinations of pesticides and combinations of inert ingredients and formulants, to which one person could
be exposed. We have specific recommendations in that regard.
We are also seeing changes within society and changes within our children. For epidemiologists to assess these
changes, they need to have some kind of background information. We hear repeatedly that there is no proof of harm
from pesticides; the science is not good enough; and we do not have proof. That is partly because we do not have a clue
about what is sprayed and when and where. There should not only be a database of sales, but also one for use and for
all the ingredients.
The idea that this is proprietary information is quite facetious because, given today's scientific equipment, it is
possible to do an analysis of a product and find out what is in it. Thus, any manufacturer can determine what is
contained in a competing product. Refusing that information is not really giving you a big competitive advantage, but
it is standing in the way of science. People cannot really keep an eye on what is going on in society if there are no data.
We recommend to the greatest extent possible to document adverse effects. Included in the package of additional
information that I have provided to the clerk of the committee is a paper from the Canadian Medical Association
Journal from last spring. It is recognized that most pesticide poisonings are not even recognized in emergency rooms.
They are treated symptomatically and people go on their way.
Adverse effects to pesticides are real. They are happening all the time. They should be tracked, reported and made
I have spoken to the OECD. Once again, in every section where risk and benefit are being assessed, I believe it
would be an improvement in the bill to include the precautionary principle.
Finally, endocrine and immune disruptions are recognized now as effects of pesticides, and it would be appropriate
to include those definitions within the bill.
I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Ms. Shauneen Mackay, New Tecumseth Environment Watch: Thank you very much for the opportunity today to
speak with you, honourable senators.
I was honoured with the Governor General's medal for my environmental work. I have been concerned about the
pesticide issue for over 10 years. Currently, I am working on getting a pesticide bylaw enacted in our community.
I want to draw your attention to the fact that I received legal advice. I added two paragraphs at the end of my
presentation, so I have to e-mail it again to the clerk of the committee, and she will provide the proper copies. I will
present it now.
Thirty years ago, we were warned that tobacco was bad for our health, but the government wanted to wait for
proof. We now have the proof that tobacco is, indeed, dangerous to our health. My own mother is testimony to that.
She smoked two packs of cigarettes a day and died a long, slow, painful death of lung cancer that had developed into
brain tumours. As she lay dying, she was afraid because her throat started to close and she constantly panicked at the
thought of not being able to breathe.
We are now being told that pesticides are dangerous to our health. In our town and in communities across Canada,
many mothers and fathers are sick at the thought of their children and pets being exposed needlessly to all of these
poisons every year. Instead of looking forward to the spring with walks and fresh air, many are faced with being
enveloped in pesticide sprays.
This issue is not about agriculture. Farmers are very much aware of the dangers of pesticides. They have to be
trained and licensed to ensure that they understand the hazards related to pesticide use. I also believe that farmers care
a lot about babies, children and pets and would never let them run over their fields after they have sprayed. I believe
that they will support the stopping of the cosmetic use of pesticides.
This issue is not about loss of jobs. The demand for organic produce in lawn care is a fast-growing and billion-dollar
business with many jobs being created.
This issue is about the federal government's responsibility and moral duty to protect its citizens. With today's
technology, we believe that it will not take 30 years to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that pesticides, indeed, are
hazardous to our health. The bottom line is pesticides kill cells, and we are all made up of cells. There is talk right now
that it will probably be only five or six years to get the proof we need. We can understand how hard this issue would be
if there were no other choices for a beautiful lawn, but there are. What we, the people in New Tecumseth, and
thousands of people across Canada would like the federal government to do in regard to Bill C-8 is this:
We would like the federal government to take the lead role on banning the cosmetic use of pesticides in urban areas.
One of the strongest weapons that chemical companies have in their arsenal is the fact that the federal government has
approved their products. The chemical companies use this tactic to back up their case at the municipal level to stop the
municipalities from getting pesticide bylaws passed. When the New Tecumseh Environment Watch went door to door
in our community to advise the people of the dangers, we found that most people believe that if pesticides were not safe
the government would never allow them on the market. By banning the cosmetic use of pesticides, the government will
ensure that our babies, children and pets will not be exposed to dangerous poisons. That is your duty and
Next, we would like the disclosure of inert gasses so we know what we are being exposed to. How can one test a
product when you do not even know what is in it.
We would like more emphasis on alternatives with more support for ecological lawn and garden care businesses.
We would like this Pest Control Products Act reviewed every five years.
We would like the federal government to get a guarantee from the chemical companies. We believe that, when all the
information is available and we find out how damaging it has been to the health of Canadians, the federal government
could be responsible for billions of dollars to our health care in class action lawsuits. If the chemical companies, whose
only responsibility is for the profitable return for its shareholders, continue to say their products are risk-free, you must
insist that they obtain approval through an independent underwriter to assess the damage these chemicals could do to
the health of Canadians. Every business that sells products has to get public liability coverage.
We have also seen instances when chemical companies have been found liable for negligence causing death and
injury — they have gone bankrupt. Therefore, somehow there must be a way to ensure that the money will be there
even if the chemical company does go bankrupt.
As you can see, honourable senators, we are not asking you to throw people out of work. We are not asking you to
take away the livelihood of our agricultural community. All we are saying is that there are companies selling products
and applying products that are hazardous to our health — especially the most vulnerable: our young people and
Canadians citizens have the right to expect protection from their government from preventable risks to public
safety. The Senate has the opportunity to ensure that all reasonable due diligence measures are taken to prove, through
independent, qualified and unbiased verifiers, that whatever pesticides are used for cosmetic purposes are absolutely
While that may necessarily mean placing a moratorium on the cosmetic use of pesticides during this verification
period, it is an inconvenience that we believe Canadians would expect. The alternative is unacceptable, which would
essentially mean that the status quo is maintained unless and until pesticides used for cosmetic purposes are proven to
be a health risk. That proof will be tendered through the deaths, disability, deformity and needless suffering of our
While individual and class action lawsuits may eventually indemnify victims from a monetary perspective, it will
never restore the shattered dreams, hopes, aspirations and lives of those victims. Please take pre-emptive precautionary
Just to note, the municipality of Hudson, Quebec enacted a bylaw banning cosmetic, purely aesthetic use of
pesticides on public and private property. The validity of this bylaw was argued at various court levels, right up to and
including the Supreme Court of Canada, where the Supreme Court, in its unanimous decision released June 28, 2001,
concluded that these laws establish a tri-level regulatory regime and also commented that this bylaw respects
international law's precautionary principle.
While it is accordingly within the power of local municipalities to enact precautionary bylaws of this nature, each
municipality is subject to internal politics, ignorance of potential risks and health implications. Therefore,
municipalities should not be expected to take an initiative of this nature on their own which will, at best, result in a
scattered, inconsistent, band-aid approach to a potentially significant health risk problem.
That is why it is important that the federal government lead the way. It has the ability to utilize its vast
constitutional powers to enact legislation for the health and welfare of its inhabitants. Please use it.
The Acting Chairman: Thank you very much. I would like to congratulate you. The things that environmental
groups, such as yours, are doing are remarkable. It is proof of unselfish commitment to the public good. We often hear
witnesses defending their own interests, and that is perfectly legitimate. However, in your case, there is no financial
gain to be obtained down the road for whatever you do. As watchdogs, you are doing extremely important work. On
behalf of my colleagues, I would like to congratulate you and thank you for coming. Your contribution to the debate is
extremely important. The bill has already, as you have seen, changed quite a bit following your presentation to the
House, and the committee will certainly study your comments carefully.
Senator Callbeck: Mr. Gaudet, in your presentation you talked about the timetables and deadlines on re-
evaluations. They are evaluated after 15 years; however, there is no timetable as to when that re-evaluation has to be
completed. What would you like to see there?
Mr. Gaudet: As it is now, we know, for instance, 2,4-D has been revised in the last 15 years with no results. You put
a product on the re-evaluation and leave it for 30 years while we are being exposed to that product. If it has been found
to be harmful or banned in another OECD countries, it should be put on moratorium immediately. There should be
some time limit imposed within which a decision has to be made on a product. It cannot be left to be re-evaluated
Senator Callbeck: What would be a reasonable time limit?
Mr. Gaudet: Five years.
Senator Callbeck: If a country disbands a pesticide, do other OECD countries follow suit automatically?
Mr. Gaudet: There are only two countries in the OECD who do not revise products: Canada and Slovakia. All the
other countries revise and have a follow-up on the products. We have products that were registered 30 to 40 years ago
that are still on the market, while they are not on the market in other countries. In many European countries, Atrazine
is not allowed; however, in Canada, they spray it on corn.
The Acting Chairman: From what I read in clause 16(2)(a) of the bill, there is a time limit on re-evaluation. However,
in the present bill we are studying, there is a time limit. It is 15 years. You might not feel it is sufficient.
Mr. Gaudet: From what I understand, every 15 years they have to re-evaluate a product.
The Acting Chairman: That was Senator Callbeck's question.
Senator Cook: He answered by saying he wishes five years.
The Acting Chairman: It is presently set at 15 years. I agree. I understand your point; it is too long.
Mr. Gaudet: I thought the question pertained to how long it would take to re-evaluate the product. That is what I
Senator Callbeck: One could start the evaluation on the 16th year, but does that evaluation go on for another 15
You have talked about the information that you feel should be gathered about the adverse effects of a pesticide. I
believe in the bill, clause 8(5) requires registered companies to provide prescribed sales data to the minister as a
condition of registration. I take it that all of you feel that is not enough.
Mr. Gaudet: That is correct, at least our Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides thinks that. That data should be
made public. The Government of Quebec is the only province, I believe, that is keeping track of the sales and the usage
of pesticides. It is made public. You can go to their Web site and see that the numbers are there.
Senator Callbeck: They are keeping track of the sales?
Mr. Gaudet: Yes, the sales.
Senator Callbeck: Do they keep track of where the pesticide is used?
Mr. Gaudet: They keep track of which sector of the economy uses what. That was instrumental in the position of the
Ministry of the Environment in Quebec in adopting their proposed code. The industry was saying they were decreasing
their use of pesticides, but when the government looked at their purchases, there was no change. What they were saying
and what they were doing were two different things.
Senator Callbeck: If you took a certain area of Quebec, you could find out what the sales were and what the usage
was in a certain area?
Mr. Gaudet: The government has that information, yes.
Senator Keon: You raised, again, the question of the precautionary principle, which got beaten to death in the House
of Commons, and we raised it here earlier in the hearings and so forth. There was a question as to whether it should be
put into the preamble of the bill or not. I became convinced that probably it was not that useful to incorporate it and it
is not specific enough.
Can any one of you enlighten me some more, since you have raised it again, as to why it should be in there?
Mr. Gaudet: We do not push the idea of having it in a preamble, because it is worthless there. It is like a working
contract with your employer: What they put in the preamble is worth nothing; it is what is in the contract that counts.
That is why it should be in the law. That is why we ask that it be in the law at specific levels, because a preamble legally
is worth nothing. It is a nice wish, but legally it is worth nothing.
Senator Keon: Do you have a specific amendment that you would suggest about getting it in there?
Mr. Gaudet: I would not know to which clause it would go. However, if you look at the presentation we made, we
would like to have it when they come to register a product. They are only talking of having it for the re-evaluation of a
product. It should be when it is registered. I know they say, ``The product has not been on the market yet; we do not
know if it is harmful.'' Are we guinea pigs? Will you test it on us for 15 years, after which you will say you are sorry; it
was causing this and that? I do not like to be a guinea pig, especially without my permission. I was never asked to take
part in that experiment.
The Acting Chairman: Mr. Gaudet, Bill C-8 says that a product will be accepted only if there is a reasonable
certainty that no harm to human health will result from exposure to the product. It is a science-based approach.
Precautionary principle is more of a legal concept and the reasonable certainty is more of a scientific concept. The bill
says requires ``reasonable certainty'' that no harm to human health will result from exposure to the product. That is, to
my mind, clearer than the precautionary principle. There is certainty that no harm to health will occur.
I believe that is important for registration, because the precautionary principle cannot apply, because there cannot
be doubt; there has to be certainty. I think that this is stronger than the precautionary principle.
Mr. Gaudet: We add that we applaud that they would have that. We feel that certainty should be determined. For
instance, if I look at an MSDS sheet here, that is what the manufacturer has to do, they do say that Tri-Kill, which is
the herbicide that is the widely used across the country, can cause liver and kidney damage. I do not call that certainty
of no harm. The manufacturers, themselves, say it could happen.
The Acting Chairman: Therefore, it should not be registered.
Mr. Gaudet: They are all like that. If you look at MSDS sheets from manufacturers — you have to fight to get them,
but you can get them — they admit that there are dangers, yet the products are on the market.
Ms. Mackay: That is what they do; they are designed to kill.
Senator Keon: Pursuing that, my question relates to the occurrence of evidence arising out of other countries,
particularly those countries in the developed world where they withdraw a product. Again, other witnesses have raised
the same points as you have, that we do not seem to have in this legislation specific recommendations for dealing with
this issue right away. Some people have suggested amendments. Specifically, do you have an amendment that you
could suggest to the committee for dealing with this issue as soon as the information surfaces — particularly if we in
Canada are the only place allowing the use of the product?
Dr. Sears: On page 5 of our presentation we suggest that ``when a pesticide is withdrawn or deregistered in an
OECD country, it should be similarly withdrawn in Canada, at least until it is re-evaluated.'' I am strong on that point
because of the experiences we have had in Ottawa looking for a pesticide bylaw. We have realized that the lobby of the
industry is powerful.
I am trained in science. I have doctorate biochemical engineering. I have reviewed scientific literature. I have looked
at some of the information that has been coming into our councillor's office from the 2,4-D task force, which is an
industry-sponsored group entirely devoted to saying that 2,4-D, the most common herbicide, is like water. You could
drink it, because it is so safe. It is disturbing.
They are putting on our councillors' desks toxicological information that is based on human testing — humans
drinking 2,4-D. This would not be allowed by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency or the EPA. Yet our Ottawa
councillors are being asked to look at this type of information.
They bring forward epidemiological studies where they compare how many people died of cancer with how many
people got sick with cancer, which are two completely different things. There is a lot of really bad science is coming
down the pipe. At the very last page of my submission I have attached something to that effect.
If, despite the barrage of information that comes from the advocates of a particular chemical, one OECD country
has somehow managed to see through it and has been concerned enough to withdraw it, that it behooves us to rise to
highest common denominator, protect the health of Canadians and withdraw the chemical until we have had a good
chance to look at it. Of course, that raises the other issue of the ability of the Canadian government to have enough
scientists and the capabilities to do independent testing and review of this information.
Senator Keon: That is a very interesting subject, which we have pursued here also with other people. You may have
read the transcripts of those committee hearings. It is true that while the scientists may be good and the science may be
good of doing research into pesticides, the science is being led by the marketplace with joint industrial-government
funding. It is being led by the marketplace, and not necessarily with bad intentions. The science is being led to get this
product on the market.
There was a time in Canada where we had a very large body of in-house scientists, particularly at the National
Research Council, NRC. We no longer have that. This may be a time for some further consideration of that.
The Acting Chairman: I strongly agree with you. I will make recommendation tomorrow based on what has been
stated by Dr. Sears. We are entitled to make an observation. In our report on this bill, we should recommend that both
the PMRA and Health Canada have an increased number of in-house scientists devoted to the toxicological study of
pesticides and those concerns expressed this afternoon. I think you would agree, would you?
Senator Keon: Yes, I would.
The Acting Chairman: I do not know how the rest of the committee will react to this, but your point is well taken.
This is certainly one observation that we will make when the committee studies this bill.
Senator Keon: You raised another interesting point about the definition of pests and said that pesticides should not
be used because pests are ``troublesome.'' I think everybody would agree with that. However, it would not be necessary
for us to get into a change in the definition of pest because, as you know, there are now devices and many safe things
for the elimination of pests that have nothing to do with pesticides and chemicals. We would be muddying the waters
there, but I want you to respond before my mind is closed.
Dr. Sears: I made that recommendation because of the cosmetic uses of pesticides. There are safer alternatives.
However, currently, there are some pretty toxic chemicals that are being used routinely across the country to do very
trivial things. The health of Canadians is being affected by very cheap and quick fixes where obviously safer
alternatives are available. We are using cheap, quick, toxic fixes for things that are merely troublesome, and we are
compromising the health of Canadians.
If we simply said that we would not register toxic products for problems that were merely troublesome, we would
automatically have to deregister products for applications on lawns, for example.
Senator Keon: You could get there without changing the definition of ``pest,'' could you not?
Dr. Sears: If you were amending this great long act, taking out one word would not seem too troublesome.
Senator Keon: You would have to go to Webster's too, would you not?
Dr. Sears: I did not check Webster's.
However, I took the liberty of talking to people at the Canadian Environmental Law Association. Everybody with
whom I spoke said, ``I don't know why I didn't think of that.''
Senator Keon: Perhaps you have a point. I will look up the definition.
Senator Fairbairn: I would like to direct a question to Mr. Gaudet. You talked about a national data collection
bank. Obviously, you are doing something special in Quebec in this area.
Can you give us a sense of exactly how this would be set up? Who would be responsible for it? You want the
provinces to provide information to it. Could you give me a better idea of how you would see this working? This is
something that could be promoted in or out of the bill.
Mr. Gaudet: Health Canada could do it, probably, since they are responsible for the health of Canadians. If we had
a national data bank, you would start to get a picture of what is happening. We know that children are becoming sick.
Doctors arrive and realize that it is a case of pesticide poisoning. However, they cannot do anything because they do
not know what is in the product.
If we had a national picture, we would have a better idea what is happening. If you match your sales of different
products with the ill-effects appearing in each region, you can begin to get a picture of what is happening when you
using such a product on a large scale. For instance, if you had data on the use of Lindane on canola crops in Alberta
and the sickness statistics, you would have a picture. You can then say that you are seeing much more of that type of
cancer when there is a greater use of that product. You can start doing some direct research. Right now, we do not
know what is happening anywhere.
Senator Fairbairn: You have a process within the province of Quebec where information is gathered and made
available to the public, as I understand your presentation.
Mr. Gaudet: Yes.
Senator Fairbairn: Is that done under the auspices of the Department of Health in Quebec?
Mr. Gaudet: The Ministry of the Environment keeps track of the sales and use of pesticide.
Senator Fairbairn: In this particular proposal, you are looking for something similar to that. I do not know whether
other provinces have the same situation or process as Quebec. However, you are looking for that from all the
provinces, and presumably the territories as well. Do you have other sources of information for that databank other
than the provinces themselves?
Mr. Gaudet: The public health authorities in the provinces can start reporting the ill-effect of pesticides; doctors see
patients being sick. The public itself is a source. I may not have a Ph.D., but if you put Killex on my lawn and I become
sick, I know it is doing something to me. I may not know what.
Senator Fairbairn: Your collection process would not involve just government sources but also public health
associations within provinces, individuals within provinces, and the Public Health Association of Canada?
Mr. Gaudet: Yes. Individuals may go through the health associations in their provinces.
Senator Fairbairn: It would not just be a collection bank that relied solely on a provincial structure. The province
would be part of it, but you are going outside that structure to the community.
Mr. Gaudet: Yes.
Senator Callbeck: In Quebec, there is a plan to collect the data. Do you have any idea of the cost of that plan? Is it
Mr. Gaudet: You would have to ask the Ministry of the Environment. I understand that those selling the pesticide
have to report their sales to the ministry. I do not imagine it would be that expensive. The retailers or wholesalers
report the sales to the ministry who then matches it to the administrative region of the province. Therefore, they know
what is happening in each region as well as across the province. However, I do not know the cost. You would have to
ask the Quebec Ministry of the Environment for that figure.
Senator Callbeck: Have they been collecting that information for a number of years?
Mr. Gaudet: I do not know how many years. It is been going on for several years. As far as I know, Quebec is the
only province that keeps track of the sale and use of pesticides.
The Acting Chairman: It is something good coming out of Quebec.
Mr. Gaudet: We are either first or last. We are not usually in the middle.
Ms. Mackay: Quebec also has 55 municipalities that have pesticide bylaws.
The Acting Chairman: That figure is increasing.
Senator Fairbairn: That province takes the lead in social issues.
The Acting Chairman: I know several municipalities that are discussing this at the present time.
Senator Cook: My question is directed to Dr. Sears. On page 5 of your brief, you refer to a 10-times safety margin. I
would like to hear you elaborate or enlighten me on the word ``threshold'' as applied to the threshold effect limit of
toxicity. You are advocating, if I understand you, a ten-time safety margin as a minimum. Perhaps, Mr. Chairman, we
could consider that for observation.
However, the bill reads in part that on the basis of reliable scientific data, the minister has determined that a
different margin of safety would be appropriate.
This is rather abstract. You are advocating something finite when you say, ``A ten-times safety margin should be a
minimum.'' Do I understand you correctly?
Dr. Sears: Yes. I have not personally researched that point much, but I gather that when the minister has used
discretions like that, it has been to lower the safety margin. We are advocating that if there is to be a change, it should
be to increase the safety, but the 10 times should be the minimum levels. Rather than ten times going to three times, it
could go from 10 times to 20 times, but that that be the minimum safety margin.
Senator Cook: Are you comfortable with the word ``threshold'' as it applies to the subject matter we are dealing
with, or would it be better to have a definition of it?
Dr. Sears: I am not an expert in toxicology, but my understanding is that when you are doing a series of tests — with
mice or whatever — that if there is a dose below which you see that there is really no difference between your controls
and the ones that have had very low doses of something, that that is how you define the threshold. That is the point at
which you start to see some effect in your experiment.
Senator Cook: With respect to the bill, the minister has discretion as to the margin of safety. You would advocate a
10-times safety as a minimum starting point and go from there?
Dr. Sears: Yes. Rather than having the 10 times turn into 2 times, the ten times could, at the minister's discretion,
become 20 times, but it would not go below.
Senator Cook: There is a word that puzzles me here on the same page. You talk about inert ingredients in pesticide
products. Could you give me an example of what you mean by ``inert ingredient''?
Dr. Sears: I suppose the most inert ingredient would be water as a diluent. Inert ingredients are supposed to be ones
that do not contribute to the actual killing but are necessary to make it work. Generally, it is something that just dilutes
the product because it is too powerful and without it you could not spread it around well enough.
It is something that must be added to make it workable, but it does not contribute to the actual killing of target
Senator Callbeck: Ms. Mackay, you mentioned that in your presentation.
Ms. Mackay: Yes.
Senator Callbeck: You would like the disclosure of the inerts. I understand you would like to have the act amended
to have a definition of that and then to have that under the confidential test data?
Ms. Mackay: That was explained to me in this way: Cookie manufacturers have to tell you their ingredients,
however chemical companies do not. Some of the deadliest chemicals are being produced in third world countries and
are showing up in some of the inerts. These chemicals are banned in North America. This is our concern. We do not
know what is really happening with the chemicals.
Dr. Sears: There is a very large number of chemicals that are classified as inert. Some of them include organic
solvents to which people are very sensitive. They can be surfactants to which people are sensitive. The classic inert is
water, but in the same category, there are things with very definite biological activity.
There have been many problems identified by various people. I do not think that this is still the case, but I will give
you an example that comes through history. At one point there was DDT added to some products. The DDT, which
was at lower levels, was considered inert. Obviously, it is not. We have seen in the past chemicals to which people are
sensitive and react classified as inert. They are not all as inert as water; if they were, we would not be here today.
Having seen this sort of occurrence in the past, we are asking for the entire picture. We will then not need to worry
about in which classification they are.
The Acting Chairman: Are not the inert products reviewed and tested by Health Canada to see whether they are
biologically active and whether they have health effects? If they do, they are no longer considered inert.
Under the regulatory process of Bill C-8, Health Canada could disclose inert ingredients. You do not need to change
the law for that. The regulations do authorize Health Canada to disclose any product, including the inert ingredients.
However, if it has biological activity or health effects, it is no longer inert.
Dr. Sears: There are things that are classified as inert yet people who are sensitive do have reactions. An inert is
something that is not considered to contribute to the action of killing in this particular instance. However, solvents
have generally been classified as inert ingredients although they do have biological activity.
Senator Keon: Other people have raised this issue. This is a very interesting situation. One of you said that the
database should contain sales use and all the contents. Sales and use is not a big problem. However, contents involve
some muddy waters.
I agree that the contents should be disclosed. However, it is not as simple that it seems on the surface because of
patents and combinations. I am looking into that currently from a legal point of view.
Ms. Mackay: My nephew is a doctor. Before I came here, I asked him how it is handled at his level with children. He
says that they do not look for anything like pesticide exposure. He said that if there were is a moratorium on the
cosmetic use of pesticides for five years, can we not find out after that period what horrible things would happen? What
would be the biggest nightmare that could happen if we banned the cosmetic use of pesticides for a certain length of
time until we determine the side effects of such use? What would be so devastating and horrific?
What would be worse than children in the hospital sick and dying — which they are right now as we sit here? The
number of children in hospitals is increasing. What would be the worst-case scenario if we banned the cosmetic use for
a few years until we are sure that our children are out of harm's way?
Dr. Sears: Manufacturers do that with foods; they do that with drugs. I am sure that it would not be the most
popular thing to do if you were sitting in the chair of the manufacturer, but it is completely do-able. I appreciate that
there will be complexities. Certainly, many complexities would be raised for your benefit, but that is not meritorious.
The Acting Chairman: Thank you very much.
I would like to recognize and welcome Dr. Grant Hill, a colleague from the House who is following our committee.
I welcome our next witness, Mr. Jerry DeMarco. Please proceed.
Mr. Jerry DeMarco, Managing Lawyer, Sierra Legal Defence Fund: I work in the Toronto office of the Sierra Legal
Defence Fund as the managing lawyer. I was counsel for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, World Wildlife
Fund Canada and Nature-Action Québec Inc. in the Supreme Court of Canada case last year. It was our submission
on the precautionary principle that led to the court's adoption of that principle in the Hudson judgment last June. My
expertise is in the legal aspects of pesticides.
From the clerk, you may have my brief and an article that I authored for the Globe and Mail this summer regarding
the precautionary principle in this bill.
The focus of my presentation today is on the manners in which the precautionary principle could be better included
in Bill C-8. If the members of the committee would like to skip right ahead in my brief to page 5, under ``Conclusion
and Recommendations,'' it is noted there that the most obvious and the easiest place to insert the precautionary
principle into this bill is in an additional recital in the preamble. We have suggested the following:
WHEREAS the Government of Canada is committed to implementing the precautionary principle in all
aspects of pest control product management and regulation.
Though there are different definitions of the ``precautionary principle,'' we typically endorse the one that the
Supreme Court of Canada endorsed: The Bergen Declaration version, which is found in my brief as well.
The inclusion of the precautionary principle in the preamble would be a good start. It could also be included in some
of the more operational sections of the bill. One possible location and one possible articulation of the incorporation of
the precautionary principle into the bill would be in clause 4 or 4.1. On page 6 of our brief, we indicate one relatively
lengthy approach to inserting the precautionary principle into that clause.
There would also be the possibility of making it much shorter by simply saying: ``The minister shall apply the
precautionary principle in administering this act.'' This was the version that set out all the different duties in the bill to
be most clear and comprehensive and the one that we submitted to the committee of the House of Commons. Now that
we are at this late stage in the bill process, perhaps ``short but sweet'' is probably in order; therefore, ``The minister shall
apply the precautionary principle in the administration of this act.'' would certainly be a welcome addition to clause 4.
We also include in our brief, the recommendation on page 7 that the one clause in the bill that currently includes the
precautionary principle — clause 20 — be improved with a slight change of wording set out on page 7. That would
include changing the wording to ``appropriate,'' ``may threaten human health'' and ``applying the precautionary
principle set out in section 2.'' Again, the definition of the principle that we would advocate is the Bergen Declaration
endorsed by the Supreme Court of Canada.
In some, the focus of my presentation is quite narrow and is for the better inclusion of the precautionary principle,
both in the recital and in the preamble, if possible, as well as in an overarching operational clause that directs the
minister to apply the precautionary principle in administering the act.
Now, I have not had the pleasure of observing many of the committee's hearings but I have heard, today, the
question regarding the interaction between the precautionary principle and the standard of care that is already set out
in the act, regarding acceptable risk. One method of ensuring that there is no doubt as to the interaction of the two
principles — the precautionary principle and the acceptable risk principle — is to simply state in the bill that where two
principles apply, the provision offering the greater deal of protection shall be used. That is a method of legal drafting
that is used in wildlife legislation in Ontario. For example, where the Fish and Wildlife Act may apply and the
Endangered Species Act may apply, the provision states that whichever principle provides the greatest degree of
protection shall apply. That is the way to harmonize or reduce conflict between the two principles.
Another method would be to simply say that the minister, in applying the precautionary principle, should do so at a
minimum, thus leaving room for other principles to apply as well.
The Acting Chairman: We both agree that for re-evaluation and special review, precautionary principle is the wise
application. However, for a new product, I am not sure. Again, we are coming back to the same debate; there is no
possibility of a doubt. There should be certainty. I agree that this one is a legal-based approach and the other one is a
science-based approach. However, for a science-based approach, you want to be certain that, by scientific standards,
there will be no harm. That is more than simply not having doubt; you must be certain. That is why I could not
understand the precautionary principle being applied to a new product — a new pesticide for registration. Personally, I
think that the precautionary principle is weaker than the scientific certainty, in that case. I realize that one is legal and
the other one is scientific, but I think it is stated that it is a scientific approach.
Mr. DeMarco: That is an excellent point and I am supportive of the acceptable risk provision in clause 2(2). The two
principles are not mutually exclusive. The legal precautionary principle may add to that. If your concern were that it
might detract from it, then I would certainly counsel using the language of the one offering the greatest degree of
protection shall apply. That is a legislative drafting approach.
An additional point that could be made beyond new registration is that the acceptable risk criterion in the act
applies to only a subset of the decisions made under the bill. For those left out of the acceptable risk category, it would
be helpful for the precautionary principle to apply at least to those.
I have here appendix 1 of brief we submitted to the House of Commons in which we had set out all of the operative
sections in the act. There are approximately 10 of those that are still not covered by the acceptable risk approach.
The Acting Chairman: They are not covered by the precautionary principle either.
Mr. DeMarco: That is right.
If you want to call them the residual set of provisions in which there is no reference to either the acceptable risk
criterion or the precautionary principle, I would advocate that the precautionary principle at a minimum apply to
those. I will state them for the record. Those are clauses 14, 22(3), 33(4) and 33(5), 34(1) and 34(3). I will leave this list
The Acting Chairman: I will review this later. Could you please clarify a few things for me?
With respect to re-evaluation, we already said it is for re-evaluation that the precautionary principle applies in the
bill. Am I right?
There are parts of the bill where what I call reasonable certainty and you call reasonable risk apply. I am not sure
they are the same, but that is fine. There are points where the precautionary principle would apply and where the
reasonable certainty does not apply in these various sections, you have in appendix 1.
Mr. DeMarco: Yes. There are only about 10 for which neither applies.
The Acting Chairman: Can you point them out quickly?
Mr. DeMarco: They are 14, 22(3), all four clauses under the heading ``export controls,'' clauses 35(6) and 36 under
the category ``reconsideration of decisions,'' and, finally, three paragraphs under clause 60, which are listed there under
the heading ``review of inspector's requirements. Those are the ones that are left.
The Acting Chairman: I will review this carefully with the committee. If neither applies there is certainly a void that
should be filled.
Mr. DeMarco: That would be an opportunity for a minimum standard of care of precautionary principle for those.
Senator Cook: This is a serious business. I am from Newfoundland. When I saw this headline — ``Dandelions: to die
for?'' — it just struck me as being different. We are the reverse. In the spring, in Newfoundland, we die to get
Mr. DeMarco: The headline writers at the Globe and Mail are inventive. Mine was the much more cautious
``Throwing Caution to the Wind,'' and they actually inserted the much more attention-grabbing, ``Dandelions: to die
Senator Cook: They are a culinary delight in my province.
The Acting Chairman: I remember reading your article in the Globe and Mail. It was excellent.
Ms. Sandra Schwartz, Director, Toxic Substances Progamme, Pollution Probe: Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank
you for inviting me to address this important piece of legislation and to present our analysis to the Senate committee.
First, I would like to state on the record that I was here last week listening to my colleagues from the Canadian
Environmental Law Association, the Ontario College of Physicians and also the Canadian Association of Physicians
for the Environment, and just now with Sierra Legal Defence Fund. Pollution Probe is certainly supportive of all the
amendments that they have put forward. Rather than going into all those in my brief, I will focus strictly on one
particular amendment that we feel is vitally important not for observation purposes but for amendment purposes of
Bill C-8 is a substantial improvement over its predecessor, the Pest Control Products Act, which was passed more
than 30 years ago in 1969. It has not been amended since that time. Unlike the current 30-year-old legislation, the
mandate of Bill C-8 is essential to ensuring that the pesticide management system is operated with the health of people
and the environment in mind. I would anticipate that Bill C-8 would and will help to protect the health of Canadian
children. Nevertheless, there remain great opportunities for further strengthening and improving the bill.
With respect to the 10-times safety factor — which I will address today — the reason we want to deal with it now,
and not seven years from now when we do a review of the bill, is that it is my belief that in seven years we will have a lot
more information about the health effects of pesticides on kids. In that period, we will have potentially affected the
reproductive system of kids, the immune system of children, the endocrine system and the brains of developing infants
born into the world today.
Last week, Jan Kasperski of the Ontario College of Family Physicians gave you a good and detailed analysis of the
special vulnerability of children in relationship to pesticide exposure. Therefore, I will not go through that myself.
However, I will indicate that exposure to low-levels of some pesticides over many months or years may cause cancer. It
may cause nervous system impairment, immune suppression, infertility and behavioural and developmental effects.
There is no cause-and-effect relationship with these, but scientists around the world have shown in a number of studies
that have been produced, as well as reproduced, that these effects are possible.
When scientists indicate that there is the potential of harm, it usually is a wake-up call to those of us in the scientific
community that there is quite a probability of harm. Scientists are typically cautious when they put their evidence
forward. They like to couch their science findings with terms like ``may'' or ``can'' rather than actually stating a cause-
and-effect relationship. Science cannot do that. I do not think we should expect that science is able to produce cause-
and-effect linkages. However, the mere fact that there is the potential for harm to developing human beings is a wake-
up call to us when dealing with a bill such as this to look at ways to improve it now and not wait for more evidence to
come in that will point in the same direction.
I have some training in toxicology and epidemiology. I am a social scientist in terms of my academic background,
but I have been researching children's health and environment for the last six years and I have talked with and have
presented around the world on issues such as pesticides, climate change, and numerous other issues.
Around the world, scientists are saying that we need to act now to protect the health of kids from toxic substances
such as pesticides.
They say that in waiting another 10 to 20 years to have surveys and longitudinal studies that may track infants from
birth to age 20, we may find some strong evidence. However, in waiting that long, we actually may be doing much
harm to the generations of today and the future.
There is an urgent need right now to make children's health a pesticide policy priority. There is currently no
coherent risk assessment and management strategy that ensures that children will grow up safe from exposure to pest
control products. In Canada, the pesticide regulation system does not currently take explicit account of children's
special vulnerabilities, unlike that in the U.S. Bill C-8 has language that acknowledges the vulnerability of children,
however, I do not believe that it goes far enough.
In the U.S, the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, is required to use an additional 10-fold safety factor when
assessing and setting regulatory limits for pesticides so as to provide reasonable certainty that no harm would result to
infants and children. This safety factor is meant to cover any heightened risks during and after pregnancy as well as
account for the incompleteness of toxicity and exposure data for children.
In order to protect Canadian children from pesticide exposure, we need similar mandatory child-centred protection
strategies within our own government structures. Furthermore, children need to be protected from exposure in all
settings. They do not need to be protected solely in homes and schools, as it is currently written in the bill.
We recommend, therefore, that there is removal of the place-based language, such as ``if the product is proposed for
use in or around homes or schools.'' We would also propose the removal of the discretionary language in clauses 7, 11
and 19 which state that ``...unless, on the basis of reliable scientific data, the Minister has determined that a different
margin of safety would be appropriate.''
This is similar to what Dr. Sears was indicating, a minimum of 10-fold safety factor is required, not a maximum.
I will explain my rationale for the removal of the language. Children are exposed to pesticides in a number of
settings, not just around homes and schools. Limiting the use of the additional margin of safety to homes and schools
will not adequately protect children from non-occupational exposures. They have exposures in community centres,
churches, recreational centres, day care centres, et cetera. This clause will not protect farm children from occupational
exposures to pesticides.
Also, the removal of the wording pertaining to homes and schools, specifically, is not a major change to the bill. It
harmonizes with the U.S. FQPA — the Food Quality Protection Act. By removing ``homes and schools,'' it is
harmonizing with the legislation in the U.S, which is the overall thrust of this bill as it is currently written.
In terms of the 10-fold safety factor and the removal of the discretionary language, I will go into a bit of detail based
on the current practice of risk assessment and standard setting in Canada. I will also provide some data from the U.S.
relating to how the extra or additional margin of safety has been applied in the U.S. after the passage of the FQPA.
By conventional practice now in Canada, the safety or harm of the substance is assessed by comparing a substance's
toxicity as determined by animal studies to the level of exposure thought to be occurring. Even when good scientific
data exists for a substance, however, uncertainty generally remains regarding its safety. This is because humans might
be more susceptible than animals, and some people are more sensitive within the population than others.
Senator Cook, this might deal specifically with your question about threshold effect and also why an additional
margin of safety is required.
The uncertainty, and the need to be purposefully health protective, increases when the research is limited. When we
are dealing with pesticides and health effects, the research is limited. I am not going to sit before the committee today
and tell you that there are cause-effect linkages that we know absolutely. That is simply not the case.
Risk assessment accounts for the imprecision or the uncertainties by dividing the greatest exposure level known to
not cause harm to young or adult animals by uncertainty factors. Thus, they are already applying uncertainty factors
to account for the variability within the population as well as to account for differences between lab animals and
The uncertainty factors are added to safe doses. To answer the question about threshold levels, these are known as
the tolerable daily intakes for adult animals specifically. They do not do this for young animals. They do little testing
on young animals. Most of this is done on adult animals, which are different from young animals.
Furthermore, information on exposures to potentially toxic substances is limited, and the scientific research we can
ethically do — human testing was mentioned — is rarely able to determine accurately how harmful a substance might
be to children and others. Therefore, we believe that a mandatory 10-fold safety factor is required to specifically
There are provisions within Bill C-8 currently for the additional margin of safety; however, the use of the
discretionary factor implies that the full 10-fold factor will only be applied in a case-by-case basis. The mandatory
safety factor would need to be applied in addition to the two standard uncertainty factors currently used in the
evaluation of new substances and re-evaluation of old ones. Imposing this factor would mean that reducing regulatory
limits for any substance to one-tenth of the initial value to ensure that they are truly protective of children.
Furthermore, imposing this factor would, by its very application, meet the strict standard of ``reasonable certainty of
no harm,'' which Senator Morin has indicated several times. It would help to meet that strict standard of protection of
human health and health of the environment.
As an aside, Senator Morin, I would be happy to answer your questions about the precautionary principle and
reasonable certainty of no harm. I also have some other information regarding that, which I can share with you.
By removing the discretionary language, it would ensure that the minister has the authority to retain the full 10-fold
safety factor in all cases. This would imply that the 10-fold safety factor become a minimum requirement rather than a
The main reason for changing the discretionary language into obligatory language comes directly from the
experience in the United States. Back in 1999, Susan Wayland, Acting Assistant Administrator of the EPA Office of
Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances wrote a letter stating that of the 120 conventional active ingredients that
the U.S. EPA evaluated under the act between 1996 and 1999, the agency retained the children's 10-fold safety factor
for only 15 substances. That is 12.5 per cent. That is simply not good enough. A mere 12.5 per cent does not protect the
health of kids from exposure to pesticides.
If the primary objective of Bill C-8 is to prevent unacceptable risks to people and the environment from the use of
pest control products, then it is imperative that clauses 7, 11 and 19 be amended.
While there are improvements that can be made to strengthen Bill C-8, we support the bill, with some amendments.
We do support it as currently written, however, I believe we are at a juncture where we can make improvements now
and not have to wait seven years for more evidence. I am certain that, when the bill is reviewed seven years from now,
you will all say that seven years ago we should have made this mandatory rather than discretionary.
The Acting Chairman: You were previously part of the Canadian Institute for Child Health, which produced an
important study on the health of Canada's children. You were the author of that study, were you not?
Ms. Schwartz: Yes. I was one of the authors.
The Acting Chairman: I should have mentioned that before. You speak with much authority here.
We are all in favour of harmonization with the U.S. It is important that North American products go back and
forth. We should be as closely harmonized to the U.S. as possible.
You mentioned the additional 10-fold safety factor that the U.S. would. From what I see here, in food quality
protection, the word ``food'' is here. If ``food'' is there, is that not in relation to maximum residue limits for pesticides in
food? I have not read the American legislation, but I thought that with regard to children, we were going further than
the U.S. The U.S. does not mention homes, schools, et cetera. We have the same safety factor as the U.S. has with
regard to our maximum residue limits. As far as food, we are the same as the U.S. However, I do not think the U.S. has
anything dealing with exposure in schools and homes — ``homes'' includes farmhouses, et cetera.
I had understood, with respect to protection of children, that we are going further than the U.S. It is the U.S. that
should be harmonizing with us and reaching our standards, because our standards are better. If I am wrong, please tell
me. You are the expert.
Ms. Schwartz: There are currently other bills in the U.S. that are on the table.
The Acting Chairman: I am not saying what is in Congress, but what is actually in law.
Ms. Schwartz: You are correct in stating that the Food Quality Protection Act deals with residue levels. In some
ways, yes, I agree with your statement that Bill C-8 goes further in terms of homes and schools. However, I suggest that
there are pieces of legislation in the U.S. — in California, for example — that deal with pesticide exposure at school
and home. While it is not federal legislation, it is still state legislation that deals directly with those exposures.
It is appropriate for Canada to consider looking at all settings in which children are potentially exposed. They are
exposed through dietary sources. They are exposed at school if pesticide is sprayed around the school property or even
on private lawns adjacent to the schools. If we remove that language from the bill, children will be protected in all
settings. Currently, it will only protect them around homes and schools. It does not go far enough to protect kids.
Senator Fairbairn: Yours is a good piece of work. I come from a largely rural area in southwestern Alberta. There is
no question that people of my generation are now displaying many medical problems that are being traced back to
those earlier days when there was very little, if any, control on the use of pesticides in the farm areas.
Farmers are among those who are most concerned and aware of the dangers of some of these products. With all of
your insights on children, how well can you, by law, protect kids in a rural farm area to the degree that you would
Ms. Schwartz: First we must remove the language of ``homes and schools.'' Currently, as it is written, the children
who live on farms and have occupational exposures to pesticides would not be protected.
Senator Fairbairn: Perhaps they would be in their farm homes.
Ms. Schwartz: Yes, but they would not be protected on the farm property while the products are being used. There
are many children who, as you know from living in a farming community, work on the farm. They ride the tractors.
They may not be specifically spraying the products — their mother or father or a farm hand may do that — but they
will likely be exposed through walking through the fields, possibly picking, et cetera. From that perspective alone, if we
want to protect farm kids, it is important that we need to remove the words ``homes and schools.''
Based on some research that Health Canada has done on the health of farm families, there is very good evidence to
suggest that there are increases in certain disease categories among the offspring of farmers.
During the Commons committee presentation, I indicated the researcher at Health Canada, Tye Arbuckle, who has
done this research. She has published it internationally in peer-reviewed journals. It is compelling information.
Senator Fairbairn: Would you say that there is nothing in this bill that covers the farm area?
Ms. Schwartz: It is not to suggest there is nothing in the bill that covers that area. If we want to protect children on
farms, we need to remove the language ``at homes and schools'' so that the extra 10-fold safety factor would be applied
— provided it is a mandatory 10-fold safety factor — to substances used in settings where children are exposed. That
would include farms, residential areas, schools, community centres, churches, et cetera. What it means is that
application of a 10-fold safety factor would be applied pretty much everywhere.
The Acting Chairman: There is no exception to what you are suggesting?
Ms. Schwartz: Essentially not, because children are exposed no matter where they are.
The Acting Chairman: You are suggesting the 10-fold factor should be applied across the board. Has this been done
Ms. Schwartz: It has not been done, to my knowledge. Currently the European Union is looking at application of
the mandatory 10-fold safety factor.
The Acting Chairman: That is an additional 10-fold factor?
Ms. Schwartz: Yes. I will explain in order to give a better understanding of the idea of ``reasonable certainty of no
harm.'' Right now, most of the pesticide testing, which is done on animals, is done by industry. The industry then
provides the PMRA with the test information. The test protocols do not currently include for most substances. They
do not include developmental neurotoxicity testing; they do not include immunotoxicity testing; nor do they require
endocrine disrupting testing.
Those are three areas specifically where we know that children are more vulnerable. We know their immune systems
are more vulnerable, as are their brains and central nervous systems. We know that the potential of endocrine
disruption to occur, if it occurs in the young, has detrimental effects for life. It has effects on the reproductive system,
The Acting Chairman: I missed the third one that you mentioned.
Ms. Schwartz: The third one was immunotoxicity. For most products, those tests are currently not done. Perhaps
this is not part of the legislation specifically to require those tests; I will be pushing the PMRA on this within the
regulatory process, and we will push for that to be the standard test protocols, but it is unlikely that it will happen.
The Acting Chairman: This could well be part of our own observations.
Ms. Schwartz: I believe it could be part of your observations, but I have difficulty with it. From our dealings with
the PMRA historically, I doubt that it will get through in regulation. It will be difficult to push for developmental
neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity and endocrine disruption. We know from the U.S. experience and their endocrine
disruption panel that they put together and could not a conclusion on what the test should look like. Putting in a
mandatory 10-fold safety factor at this time would ensure that, without the information and without those tests being
currently done, we are being as protective of our children as we can be. There are so many uncertainties in the science
at the moment.
The Acting Chairman: What would be the affect on agriculture?
Ms. Schwartz: I am certain that there are many products that will be permitted registration and re-registration. I do
not think that there will be immediate moratorium on all pesticides.
The Acting Chairman: It would have a significant effect on the agricultural products.
Ms. Schwartz: It means that the application rates will not be as high as they are currently allowed. It does not
necessarily imply that the product would not be allowed. It means that it would lower that level so the threshold level
— this level where you see no effect — would be raised. Therefore, the standard would become a more protective
standard. Therefore, the application of the product would be lessened.
I am not sure there would be a large effect on the agriculture sector. There will potentially be some effect on the
pesticide manufacturer because it would not be economic for them to continue to produce certain products. I will give
you one example of a product: Lindane, which is being phased out, will only be phased out within the new legislation.
It is a product that is known to be toxic to children. Yet it is still allowed in lice-control products. It is applied on the
heads of kids. The whole purpose of a pest control products act, with the re-registration process as it currently stands,
means that they had to re-register that product for it to be taken off the market.
The Acting Chairman: Thank you Ms. Schwartz.
Our final witness this evening is Dr. Libuse Gilka from the Physicians and Scientists for Healthy World. Dr. Gilka,
Dr. Libuse Gilka, Physicians and Scientists for a Healthy World: There are several basic problems with synthetic,
chemical pesticides. The first one is that we, as physicians, until recently, did not have much information in the medical
literature on these materials. There was a tremendous overflow of scientific studies, according to the Canadian Medical
Association Journal, 15 years back. It is estimated that there are about 20,000 journals published annually that are
related to medicine and about 400,000 studies published annually that are related to medicine. That was 15 years ago.
Now, those numbers are higher. Therefore, there is a slow penetration from one field, such as toxicology, to another
field, such as medicine.
When I was preparing for the House committee a few years ago on pesticides, I called the Canadian Medical
Association Journal to request the published information on health and environment for the previous 10 years in their
journal, which is the basic journal for GPs and family physicians. I received 12 years of information: three letters to the
editor, two reprints from newspapers and one announcement about a conference dealing with environmental issues and
health. There was an accompanying letter that said the Canadian Medical Association Journal does not publish
anything on the environment and health because that was Dr. Levi's area of expertise. They gave me his phone
I called Dr. Levi and he was most surprised by my inquiry. It was the first time that he had heard that he was
responsible for Canadian physicians' education on environment and health. He was not aware of any kind of journal
that may have such a section. However, he thought that there may be one in the United States.
After that, there was a short series of articles — about six in total — on environment and health. However, we
stopped seeing such information in 2001. This year, some articles appeared, including one on pesticide, but this so-
called series is gone. The first problem is that the physicians do not get any information on the impact of pesticide on
human health. In addition, it is a new phenomenon. Physicians always want to have real scientific studies. The result is
that many decision-makers, when asking their physicians, are sincerely assured not to worry because there is nothing in
the literature about an impact. It is deemed that if there were such a problem, it would be in the Third World or maybe
with those who are dealing directly with the pesticide. It is not recognized.
The second problem is that we do not have lab testing. Again, for documentation I had a patient whose brother was
afraid of insects, so he sprayed around his bed. My patient was a secretary to a Prime Minister, so she was obviously an
intelligent woman who is now retired. I examined her brother who was suffering from strange problems and I fully
agreed that there was a need to test for the effects of that spraying. However, because I tried before to find where could
test other patients without success, I asked her to look into it. She started 1:00 p.m, and was finished at 5:00 p.m. in the
same place as before without any opportunity. The only possibility is to send it to the United States. The cost would be
about $2,000, which this man did not have.
It is not mentioned in the medical literature. It is not mentioned in our textbooks and journals. It is not tested in
accessible laboratories. We are not aware of the full problem, or how serious it is. Because of that, it is still seen as an
issue between environmentalists and the industry. Actually, it is a very serious public health problem that is affecting
American labs have done assessments of the human body tissues. It was found that everyone nowadays carries
hundreds of foreign substances, including pesticides. The final effect is dependent on many factors both known and
unknown, including those that are psychological.
It is becoming clear that there is a link between exposure to pesticide and human health. We can see that from the
studies that are done on farmers. For example, a study was done on 150,000 Canadians farmers. It showed an increase
in this population of farmers of all those health problems that are increasing in our society and worldwide: these are
cancer, prostate cancer, testicular cancer in young men and breast cancer. Recently, it was found that breast cancer is
nine times more frequent in women who are in farming than in the rest of the population. The general incidence in the
general population is one in eight women. In other words, if the woman lives sufficiently long, she has one risk in eight
of developing breast cancer. Nine times higher is almost unimaginable — it means that practically every woman who is
in farming sooner or later would be affected by breast cancer.
It was found that children from higher social classes have six to seven times higher incidence of leukemia. It is more
common for children from the higher social classes because their parents have the opportunity to have a gardener with
beautiful gardens, lawns and children with leukemia.
All these connections are not sufficiently recognized. The only cancer that increased for farmers and not in the
general population was cancer of lips. Apparently, after touching the pesticide they eat or touch their lips. This is the
only cancer that is not appearing in the general population.
We divided out the older generation of farmers who were not using pesticides. Their health was better than that of
the rest of population. When we look at the generation of farmers who have been exposed to pesticides, you can see the
incidence of all these problems at a higher rate than the general population. We can calculate from that that clearly
there is a link.
We cannot assess properly the impacts of pesticides on human health because pesticides are assessed individually,
but we all are exposed to mixtures, and everyone is different. The aggregate or total exposure is not considered.
Furthermore, formulas are not fully registered because they are considered inert. However, they sometimes are even
more toxic than the other ones.
Vulnerable populations are children in the prenatal stage. It has been found that during pregnancy, the deposits of
matter in mother's tissues of pesticide and other foreign chemicals are shifted to the body tissues of the developing
child. The placenta does not have the opportunity to prevent exposure
The Acting Chairman: Dr. Gilka, as I stated, we have gone through your material. There is no doubt that we agree
with the list of problems that you associate with pesticide.
Perhaps you could come to your specific recommendations in regard to the bill with which we are dealing. Perhaps
you could deal with one question in your written material.
I was interested that you suggest that we should ban synthetic chemical pesticide for social and economic
advantages. Is your recommendation to ban pesticide completely? There is nothing apart from social and economic
advantages. Is your point that we should ban completely the use of pesticides? Is this a recommendation that you
would make? If not, what would be your recommendations in relation to the bill we are now studying?
Dr. Gilka: Our first recommendation would be to immediately ban the unnecessary use of pesticide, which means
use for cosmetic reasons and use on animals as a protection against fleas It is not only cosmetic use that is unnecessary.
Spraying in apartments and hotels is unnecessary. The more expensive the apartment building or hotel, the more
spraying because there cannot be any kind of ant or anything present. These things could be done now.
We share the basic life blue print with all other living creatures. Structures and basic features of the cell and
biochemical components are similar. Many of the experiments are done on bacteria, and then they are transferred to
Pesticides are deliberately made poisonous and they do not stay in one area. They move around. We know that
pesticides that were used in tropical areas are found in the Arctic.
We need to find new ways for protecting food in agriculture that do not include using toxic substances, because we
are affected by processes such as biomagnification and bioaccumulation — the spread of the chemicals in nature. This
is knowledge that we were not aware of at all when those substances were introduced. It was looking so wonderful;
however, now, 50 years later, we see the potential impact. We have reached a point where, if we do not change, we will
experience serious consequences. That is what we would be facing.
The Acting Chairman: As you state in your document here, you are promoting the non-chemical approach to pest
Dr. Gilka: That is right.
Senator Fairbairn: I would assume that you would be very much in line with Ms. Schwartz in her presentation vis-à-
vis children and overarching requirement, as she was saying, in banning these pesticides from all places where children
gather and live.
Dr. Gilka: Yes. We should also realize that the adults are affected as well.
Senator Fairbairn: I know that. Yes.
Dr. Gilka: Everyone is potentially affected. Once people realize to what degree they are affected, we can make
changes that would be beneficial for everyone, even those who are promoting pesticides.
Senator Fairbairn: If you could do one specific thing with the proposed legislation, what would you do?
Dr. Gilka: I would recommend, first, that there must be widespread, worldwide education on the impact of the
chemicals on human health. We have to have real and positive changes; it has to be done not only in Canada, it has to
be done worldwide. We have to start with physicians who need the education and with the awareness that if we are
looking on the growing incidents of cancer in children, we should look at what is the reason behind that.
When I started as a pediatrician in 1960, we did not have any children with the cancer. Asthma was extremely rare. I
worked for three years at a large hospital as a staff person. We had mandatory autopsy of every child who died, either
at home or in the hospital. In that time, during three years, I found one hereditary carcinoma, special neuroblastoma,
which was in the family generation to generation, and one case of leukemia. Now they have everything — even worse
I had been a physician for 10 years when I came to Canada; at that time, I knew of only one brain tumour. Everyone
who died in the hospital had mandatory autopsy. Now brain tumours are everywhere, even worse, as I said, than here.
At that time, there was not yet any exposure to pesticides in my old country because they did not have foreign currency
for that, because the care in the communist country for the well-being of population was not important.
There has been a drastic change in those 40 years. Otherwise, as you can see on the first cover page, those pictures
which are done by the children exposed to commonly used pesticide — here in Canada those pesticides are commonly
used also — these can be our grandchildren.
Senator Cook: You talk about the precautionary principle here, as I have heard from a number of the witnesses.
You talk about the right to know. You talk about education and awareness. There are a number of things there.
In education, I notice you talk about medical schools and those areas. Would you advocate a curriculum right at the
Dr. Gilka: Yes.
Senator Cook: I know that is long-term. Should we move towards that?
Dr. Gilka: Definitely. There is one possibility of how we can in two weeks educate practically all the north American
population, and it would be very appropriate now at the end of the year. What I envision is a poster that will list the
reasons not to use pesticides for cosmetic or other unnecessary uses. Have it as a poster that will be in the same
calendar preferrably for three or four years so it will stay on the wall. That poster could be hung in the waiting area in
the medical offices, in the hospitals and so on.
It could be accompanied with a 1-800 number where people can call. Here, in Ottawa, they have excellent
information at the Ottawa-Carleton Health Unit. The information can be on a tape recorder. This is one way that we
can make physicians aware of the problem.
Regarding the general population, this is an idea that is meant for the education of everyone — an awareness action
program that will be ongoing. Such a campaign would start with each new season of the year, concentrating, for
example, on water with the coming winter or coming spring. In media — radio and television, for example — there can
be active discussion about this problem. If it is done with the people who are attracting people to television, like sport
representatives, actors and actresses — they have been people in this area who are involved in that — then it will get a
lot of people to the screen. Therefore, they will learn about that.
Second, there are many really good ideas that could be helping, but it is usually coming from the people who do not
know how to get this idea to the final realization. Scientists, for example, are usually rather isolated. Scientists could
explain the data so that we can have an opportunity to improve the situation: For example, the oil spills. It is known
that there are bacteria that can transmute an oil spill. Again, that has not been used in Spain. Canada can play a
leading role if we had such a databank.
The Acting Chairman: I think that is a very optimistic note.
We will have to close this very interesting discussion. Dr. Gilka, if you have other material you would like us to read,
we would be interested in receiving it.
Dr. Gilka: I have material here that was presented to the pesticides committee. It is with regard to multi-generational
The Acting Chairman: The clerk will see that we get the material.
Thank you for coming, Ms. Schwartz and Dr. Gilka. It was a very interesting afternoon.
The committee adjourned.